NORWALK — The challenge of Stasha Carey was passed with flying colors.
The newest obstacle in the Wadsworth girls basketball team’s path to the Division I state tournament will be three times as large this afternoon.
Toledo Notre DameAcademy features a frontline of 6-foot-2 small forward Tierra Floyd (18.8 pgg in regular season), 6-2 center Kaayla McIntyre (12.8, 10.3 rpg) and 6-0 power forward Jayda Worthy heading into a regional championship.
The winner of the 1 o’clock game advances to battle Princeton (25-2) or Lakota West (22-5) in the state semifinals Friday.
Grizzlies coach Andrew Booth believes tempo will be the deciding factor.
“We’ve got to see what we can get full court,” he said. “In the half court, we’re going to have to mix things up. Obviously, we need to try to keep the ball on the perimeter as much as possible.”
The Eagles (23-3) are aiming to reach Columbus for the third straight year by beating the Grizzlies (26-1) for the third straight year. Notre Dame rallied from a 10-point hole to win the 2012 showdown 55-51 and scored five points over the final 37 seconds to win 43-39 last season.
Four days after holding Berea-Midpark’s Carey, a Pittsburgh recruit, scoreless over the first 22:42 of a 51-44 regional semifinal victory, the overall theme of Wadsworth’s game plan of denying post entries remains the same.
The difference is Notre Dame brings three 6-footers to the table, highlighted by the nationally acclaimed Floyd.
The versatile wing can hit 3-pointers, single-handedly beat the press with court vision and drive to the rim with force. A video from last season that features a Toledo Rogers defender sustaining a knee injury after a Floyd between-the-legs dribble has approximately 49,000 views on YouTube.
“No. 1, she’s naturally gifted,” Booth said. “No. 2, she’s got a very high basketball IQ. She understands the game and she’s very unselfish. But when needed, she knows when to take over, too. In my opinion, she’s the best junior in the state.”
Floyd is the most sought-after college prospect, but the abilities of McIntyre and Worthy on the glass and defensively are why the Eagles thrive in half-court games.
The perimeter is handled by 5-5 Christina Jefferson, who locked down former Wadsworth sharpshooter McKenzie O’Brien in the second half of last season’s game, and 5-6 Talajha Parker.
Touted 5-8 freshman Mariah Copeland is another name to watch.
“We’ve got to speed them up, which is a tough task because they have a good point guard in Jefferson and Floyd handles the ball like a guard,” Booth said.
Wadsworth is a virtual lock to break the MedinaCounty record for defensive scoring average with a 30.5 mark and, with four starters 5-9 to 5-11, is more versatile than last year’s team in the half court.
The revenge factor also is clearly in the Grizzlies’ favor, but like last year Booth is downplaying that aspect.
“For them, it’s the same team. For us, this is a whole new team,” he said. “We had 2-3 kids play in this game last year and the rest of our roster is new.
“We’re not looking at it as a revenge game. We’re looking at it as a game we need to win to get to the ultimate goal.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.